Shawnee National Forest, ILLINOIS
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Most Recent Shawnee National Forest Camping Reviews

As close to camping next to the Mississippi river as you can get

Great Little Campground

We stayed here during the winter while visiting my brother who was in college nearby. He and his friends seem to camp here quite often and it was a great choice. Even in the winter the sites were quite clear and clean and it provided great access to nearby trails and hiking.

Due to the somewhat rural location you could not beat the view of the stars at night.

For climbers, there is a ton of nearby trad and sport climbing. The main wall stays wet for a while so if it has recently rained you may need to find somewhere else.

Wrong Garden.

Two of the reviews are not the Illinois subject area but of somewhere in the western US. Garden of The Gods in Illinois is a beautiful area and great for relaxing, hiking, sightseeing, campings, and picnicking. Great for a day trip or extended stay while exploring the lands between the mighty rivers.

Not a typical KOA

As KOAs go, this is one of The nicer ones! There is actually grass, not gravel, around the sites. There are trees and flowers and it is quite pleasant. With KOA you expect water, electric and sewer hookups. Clean shower/bathroom facilities and usually a pool. This place has that. Along with a small store, fishing lake, propane filling station. A dog park would be nice for the pups, but the do have a large grass area for walking them on lead. Internet connection is spotty! The spaces are a little close, but not as bad as some, and we were on an end site, so we had more room.

Fish and camp on Rend Lake

One of the first campgrounds that you come to at Rend Lake when you get off the highway, this campground has lots of positives and few negatives. Among the positives is that this is a large campground with two loops and two spurs for camping. It didn’t seem to matter where your site was, each was fairly small, on top of each other, and lacking the privacy I like when tent camping. That being said, every site has electric (a plus), and every site looked well maintained. There are quite a few sites on the lake or with lake views, and these seemed to be the most coveted sites. My site was on the lake with a down slope reaching down to the tent/picnic pad (a concern if it was going to rain hard), and littered with sweet gum balls that had not been swept up yet. However, I had plenty of space at my site (#79) to spread out and relax. It was pretty neat to look at the exposed roots of trees along the shore, erosion at work. Not far from the campground is a picnic area and the boat launch. One of the down sides is that you can clearly hear the highway from the campground, and of course if you have a lake site, you will have plenty of boat noise. Speaking of boats, most people seemed to be fishing. The campground does not have a fish cleaning station in it but up near the golf course (you drive past it to get to the campground) there is an almost new looking fish cleaning station.

Great lake views here

I tried to camp here in the primitive tent area, however the primitive campground was closed and I could not find anyone who could tell me when or if it would reopen. There was a sign stating it was closed in October due to staffing issues. So I took a drive through the Class A campground just to see it. Here’s what I discovered: the primitive section is far removed from the Class A (by a mile or two). The Class A section is HUGE! There were several loops and spurs, including one set aside for volunteers only and one that was for Reserve America only (I’ve never seen that before). I am guessing that the primitive section has some lake access or views like the Class A section does (and the lake views are great!). Looks like a burn was done recently to clear out brush and fall leaves along the backs of a couple of loops.  There is a bike trail that seems to go throughout the park but is in pretty bad shape. I would not use a good bike on this and would bring some patches and spare tubes. All sites had the requisite picnic tables and fire rings. There were two campground host sites, but no one seemed on duty to answer my questions. All of the spring flowers were blooming in the woods along the bike trail, which was nice to look at as I bounced down the lanes.

off the beaten path

Located on Kincaid Lake in the northwestern edge of the Shawnee National forest. The campground has three small loops. Two are more forested with smaller sites and one is more open on the edge of the forest, and geared up for equestrian camping. There are very basic pit toilets that were fairly new and clean. You can get potable water at the entrance. We camped here mid-April and the campground water spigots had not been turned on yet. Camping is $10 a night - self check in. No need to worry about finding firewood, as it is plentiful within the forest. Listened to owls at night before bed.

We took a short ride to nearby Ava and checked out Scratch Brewery. Delicious and unique little place that is off the beaten path. Only open on weekends, but highly recommend.

Are we in Illinois?

Garden of the Gods is a wonder to behold… especially if you are wondering how this could possibly be in Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest is a geological paradise that remains somewhat off most people's radar (luckily). Garden of the Gods may be considered its crowned jewel, which does cause it to attract a lot of visitors. The campground is small and basic with pit toilets. Campground is clean and with friendly staff but the real campsites are those that you hike into. There is nothing better than hiking in and stumbling onto a perfect cliff overhang that you can call home for the night. The hiking and views are well worth the trip, just watch your footing on some of those cliffs.

Popular dispersed camping area

This is dispersed camping within the Shawnee National Forest. The area can be tricky to find if you are unfamiliar with the area. It can also get very crowded on nice days due to its proximity to the college campus. It is also very popular with rock climbers and people on horseback. I found the trails to be somewhat confusing and not well marked. I was here Easter weekend and the weather was great, so there were a lot of tents set up right near the parking area. If you don’t mind hiking in a bit, peace and quiet can be found.

Nice lake-front spots

Around $30/night In 2019 for lake front with RV hookups. Cute little on site store for nick nacks, boat rentals, and fishing bait.

Nice chill vibe.

Primitive camp site but super quiet

Bring your own firewood. From inside the state of IL of course. The hiking is incredible.

Nice Campground & Beautiful Park!

We stayed Easter Weekend here in the campground and had a great time. The campground is clean and maintained. Some sites are gravel and some are asphalt. Not sure if they are upgrading a little at a time?? There are plenty of trees for shade. Some sites are close together and some have more room in between them. The picnic tables are old and seem to be spread around as camper are moving them around. The main bathhouse is older, but nice and clean! There is a vault only bathroom at the back of the campground. No water hook up at each site, only electricity. . While you are here, check out the Lodge for dinner one night and climb to the top of the water tower observation deck for some amazing views! Make the quick drive to Makanda and explore the little hippy town. Don’t forget to take a stroll through the secret garden! . The Giant City Nature Trail and Devils Standtable were really pretty, easy strolls. The Trillium Trail is a little more rugged for those who prefer less crowded, slightly tougher trails.


Great camping, usual campground with clean facility's. My family & i enjoy the lake for fishing , boating,swimming & beach time! Close to town for the forgotten marshmallows! Amazing sunsets over beautiful Rend lake!

Peace & Quiet

A group of 15 of us stayed here a few years ago. Very quiet and peaceful. We were the only people in the campground and I don't remember even seeing a ranger or anyone at all. We had pit toilets, but had to drive elsewhere for showers. I would come back again.

Breath taking

Beautiful open area with lots of places to climb and explore! I loved the hiking trail that takes you all the way around the park

Rock climbing and backpacking

Ferne Clyffe State Park is in the Shawnee National Forrest near Goreville, IL., south of Carbondale. There are several limestone bluffs, great for climbing, naturally forested woodlands, cliff caves, and several small waterfalls. There are several campgrounds: modern, primitive, youth groups, backpack or equestrian. Shower facilities are available at some campgrounds. Some campsites can be reserved online at

There are also equestrian trails, hiking, and fishing.

Night of the owls

My wife and I camped here one weekend in early fall. The site was fairly secluded, and right on Kincade lake. The campground is in the Shawnee National Forrest, and We heard several owls calling in the trees around us when we went to bed, so we stayed up listening for awhile. In the middle of the night we were startled awake by a pair of owls in the tree right above us. We were not sure if they were fighting or mating, but it sure was loud! The campground is scattered throughout the woods, with pit toilets and there is no shower. Water is available at the entrance. But, for $10 a night it is pretty good.

Good fishing and caoening

I’ve camped here several times with family and also with Boy Scouts. The regular campground is ok. Regular state park stuff. The group camping area was very nice. It is a large, separate area. We had the whole area to ourselves each time we took the scouts. There were pit toilets, but the guys didn’t care. Also lots of free fire wood, hiking, fishing and canoeing!

Beautiful place to see

I love this place! Every rock as a story and it’s very unique! We drove through Atleast 4 times! I can’t wait to take my son to see it

A little slice of heaven

We almost had the entire campground to ourselves! We got there and got the best lot with a great backyard view. Garden of the gods was right around the corner and saw one of the best sunsets even though it was slightly cloudy. Would definitely recommend it!

This place was great!

We loved canal campground! We originally had reserved a spot at another location, after driving for 3 hours to get there we discovered it had litter strewn about and was basically a parking lot full of RV's. This was very disappointing because we are tent campers. We were contemplating just driving back home or getting a hotel but the kids were so bummed. Well anyway we happened to stumble upon Canal Campground and we are so happy we did. We camped in the primitive loop site 10 (all sites have water and electric) and it had views of the lake, it was decent on the privacy (we had 1 site that was a little too close) the part that amazed me was how clean the area and bathrooms were. We only saw 1 small spider in the bathrooms and no webs or anything. They have a dock for boats, a swimming/beach area, a playground, fishing, and golf cart rental. Overall we really enjoyed our stay and we plan on definitely coming back. 4/3/2019

This is our camping spot!

I love camping at Rend Lake. More specifically, South Sandysky campground. It is clean, the shower houses are immaculate. It’s always fully stocked and clean. The beach isn’t littered with trash. It’s always a wonderful, relaxing experience every time.

Remote and rugged

Excellent for tent camping when you want relatively easy access and still feel a bit of solitude.

Remotely lovely

Tent sites with no electricity or water. Clean toilets and a covered pavilion for getting out of the rain when needed.

Beautiful camp

Very nice campground with electric and water.

Hickory - Site 99

The Corps of Engineers campgrounds at Rend Lake are very well kept and a safe bet for a weekend away. Showers are clean, bathrooms all “flush”.

Campsite sizes vary, but all are reasonably spaced.

Ranger Review of Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pants at Lake Glendale

Located in the Shawnee National Forest, this sweet little campground has it all. Wooded, semi private sites (at least for tents), full hook ups for RV’s, great campground hosts, CCC buildings, new shower house, amazing trails at Lake Glendale and other nearby areas. Even on a rainy afternoon, there were plenty of campers at Lake Glendale, which resulted in us not getting a preferred site (46) but a perfectly good site instead (49). The sites were spotless and well maintained, with some having space under the trees for tents and some having just gravel pads. Our site was close to, but not on, the lake with easy access via trails. There were a few sites with good lake views, with the majority of those in the RV loop. The trail around the lake is about 3 miles; a nice hike that really gives you a good look at the park. On the hike you pass two large shelters built by the CCC as well as the boat ramp, damn, and swimming beach. For more wild hiking, go down the road 15 minutes to Bell Smith Recreation area (which has its own campground) and hike to the natural rock bridge (and climb the steel ladder), springs, or Devils Backbone.

Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pant

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get gear to test and review. On this trip I tested out Rom Outdoors Vertical Ski Pant. In the midwest we rarely get snow before Thanksgiving, and our little ski hill usually doesn’t open until close to Christmas (when they have been able to make enough snow for skiing), so I felt really challenged with this product. However, with a full day of cold rain and overnight temps in the low 30’s, I gave it a real go. A few weeks later we had a sizable snow (for early November and the St Louis area) and was able to further test these out. Here’s what I found: The pants are really waterproof! I didn’t get wet at all even after setting up and taking down a tent in the rain, hiking through tall grass in the rain, and later, hiking several miles in the snow. At first I thought the pants were a bit short and almost exchanged them for a larger size. But then I realized that they are designed with length in mind for wearing ski boots. And I could adjust them a bit by adjusting the suspenders. Overall I was very happy with the ski pants, if only we could have real snow and real ski hills.


  • Waterproofing is solid
  • Tons of storage pockets that have double closures (zippers and velcro) to protect your stuff; side pockets are deep and large
  • Cuff zippers to help with putting on/taking off ski boots and to vent
  • Zippered vents on insides of the thigh area
  • Adjustable, removable elastic suspenders
  • Fleece lining is super warm and removable if too warm
  • Adjustable waist with velcro as well as belt loops


  • Unisex sizing (women are shaped different from men!); no tall sizes for slim builds
  • Only comes in one color, black
  • No reflective areas
  • The adjustable waist is only adjustable by two inches overall
Well Priced Tent Options

This campground is the closest campground you will find to the downtown area while also being close to the Mississippi River. At first glance this location looks like it caters mostly to RV traffic, however upon closer evaluation there is a large tent area which offers sites with both electrical connections or without for a very reasonable $15 or $20.

The campground offers laundry and bathrooms which are well maintained and everyone visiting can take advantage of pretty strong wifi. When visiting this site cell signal with AT&T was fair making for a pretty luxurious feel overall and a great place to stay for the person wanting to get out but not be completely off the grid.

Tent spaces were pretty well spread out and had nice grassy pads. Many had their own picnic tables, while a few seemed to share.

The lake is more of a pond, but you can fish there or just enjoy the views which are pleasant.

Everyone at this campground seemed very friendly and there was a good mixture of different types of travelers in all types and styles of travel.

One of the most notable things about this campground is its proximity to town where you can enjoy so many activities including quilt festivals, the murals of the towns history entitled "Wall to Wall", museums and a variety of outdoor parks with activities throughout the year.


  • If you are stopping by this location make sure you check with the park to book in advance. This is a popular destination for those coming to the Annual Quilt Festival and books up during this week. Check in advance to make sure you aren't trying to just pass through when this is going on.

  • There are two areas of this camp, one has smaller spaces which are not ideal for pull outs and one where spaces are much more spread out. If booking in advance give a clear description of your rig to allow them to best suit your needs for accommodations.

Shady and quiet

This is a great state park campground. They have electric sites, and water is available but you need to fill your tank before setting up camp. Sites are flat and most are pull through. Giant City has great hiking and wildlife viewing.